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Ally Bain, IBD Activist

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Updated March 15, 2012

Allyson Bain

Allyson Bain is the woman who spearheaded efforts to pass the first Restroom Access Act in her home state of Illinois.

Photo © Amber J Tresca

A Teen With Crohn's Disease:

Allyson (Ally) Bain was diagnosed with Crohn's disease, one form of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), when she was only 11 years old. Like many children with IBD, Ally missed school and spent time hospitalized for her Crohn's disease. She has described the bullying she endured as a result of being underweight -- being called anorexic and worse. In high school, her colon perforated and she underwent emergency surgery. A temporary colostomy was created, which was reversed a year later.

Ally's Law:

A pivotal point in Ally's life, and in her battle with Crohn's, came at the age of 14. While Ally and her mother were out shopping, the need to use the restroom hit. She asked the staff at the store if there were a restroom she could use, and she was told there was none. Even after talking to a manager, she was still denied access to the employees-only restroom. Unfortunately, what happened next was the thing that every person with IBD fears -- Ally had an accident.

Instead of trying to forget the incident and put it behind her, Ally took charge and decided to turn it into something positive. A few months before, Ally had taken a class trip to the Illinois State Capital where she met Illinois State Representative, Kathleen Ryg. Ally and her mother, Lisa, got in touch with Representative Ryg to discuss what could be done to prevent what happened to her from happening to other people with digestive disease.

At the heart of the matter is the availability of restroom access in shopping areas. In many cases, these establishments have restrooms for their employees, which are not made available for customers. This is often because it is difficult to have employees take time away from their primary duties to clean and maintain a restroom for customers. The bill that was drafted and sponsored by Representative Ryg requires that people who have a chronic illness be given access to those employee restrooms when in need.

Ally testified in front of a committee in the state capital in support of the bill. It was passed in Illinois as the Illinois Restroom Access Act, and signed into law by the governor in September 2005. In the years since, it has become known as The Restroom Access Act, or "Ally's Law," and has been passed in 12 states. The Restroom Access Act is currently in the works in several more states.

The Future For Ally:

Since becoming the face of Ally's Law, Ally has gone on to become involved in political advocacy. She's currently in college, studying Communications and Political Science and is active in the effort to have The Restroom Access Act passed on the national level.

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